Grace Fjeldberg, R.D.N.
Diabetes Education, Nutrition
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Q. Are some people at a greater risk for celiac disease?
A. Yes. Anyone can develop celiac disease, but some people are more susceptible to it.
People at a greater risk include those who have:
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Down syndrome
- Microscopic colitis (colon inflammation that causes persistent watery diarrhea)
- Type 1 diabetes
Q. How do you treat celiac disease?
A. The only current way to effectively treat celiac disease is by eliminating gluten from your diet. This will alleviate symptoms and restore intestinal health – meaning new villi.
You may need to work with a dietitian to help you identify foods that contain gluten.
Q. I hear a lot about gluten-free diets – are they healthy for everyone?
A. If you do not have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or dermatitis herpetiformis (a blistering skin disease resulting from gluten intolerance), a gluten-free diet is not necessary and may actually nutritionally compromise your diet.
Q. What are complications associated with celiac disease?
A. If you fail to treat celiac disease, there are potentially serious complications, including:
- Malnutrition. Celiac disease reduces your villi’s effectiveness when it comes to nutrient absorption. This often leads to malnutrition, even if you are eating a healthy diet.
- Cancer. People who leave their celiac disease untreated have a greater risk of some forms of cancer.
- Lactose intolerance. As celiac disease inflicts more damage on your small intestine, you may experience irritation from other non-gluten foods that contain lactose, such as dairy products.
Celiac disease has continued to garner attention from the medical community and general public in recent years as experts learn more about it. In fact, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, celiac disease is now recognized as a common genetic disorder that affects about 1 in 133 people.
Fortunately for those with concerns about celiac disease, increasing your understanding and knowledge of the disorder can help you better identify and treat it. And with celiac disease under control, you’ll live a happier, healthier life.